Common knowledge – effective communication relies on people’s ability to speak the same (or similar) languages. Imagine the challenge of conducting business in Russian when you only speak Portuguese. Akin to this belief is the body of work started by Dr. Gary Chapman several decades ago regarding the “love languages” that we all speak. Dr. Chapman’s theory was that a few simple language techniques can show genuine understanding, connection, or even ‘love’ – when communicating and influencing those in your life.
Although Dr. Chapman’s work was primarily geared toward personal relationships, it’s a relevant transition to the professional environment. Dr. Chapman, along with Paul White, took that transition and wrote “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.” Check out the five different languages below and see which one would speak to you.
- Words of Affirmation. There is a big difference between merely complimenting someone and acknowledging how critical their contribution is to the benefit of the project or organization. Praise for one’s accomplishments, character, and personality are all ways to affirm their value.
- Quality Time. Imagine how it feels when you are in conversation with a co-worker and they constantly check their phone or frequently ask you to repeat your words. The two of you may be spending time together, but not necessarily quality. Now imagine the opposite – a genuine dialogue of shared feelings and perspectives, where all opinions are valued. Ask follow-up questions; use phrases like “tell me more about that,” or “I can understand that must be difficult.” This language’s effectiveness has less to do with a physical presence and more with active listening and emotional connection.
- Acts of Service. Engaging your time and energy to support another is acting in the service of their needs. People who speak this language often need to feel as if you’ve sacrificed some of your comfort and/or priorities to help them. Make sure to ask others how you can help – do not assume, and pay attention to others’ needs, not merely your preferences. Follow through!
- Tangible Gifts. This language may seem superficial or material – not the case; tangible gifts provide a tactile element to how people may feel appreciated. Although only 6% of those surveyed prefer this style, gifts like trophies, plaques, personalized items, or even food – often send the message of true thoughtfulness.
- Physical Touch. In the workplace, this language requires the most conscientiousness – especially in today’s world of harassment and inappropriate behavior. Always be mindful of other personal space. However, a hug or light touch of the shoulder or elbow (when it is welcomed) can be a genuine way to show appreciation. Often a firm handshake is a simple but elegant way to express professional gratitude.
We all speak these languages to some degree, and we also want these languages spoken to us in particular ways. The key is to learn their effectiveness in different situations, value the different preferences of others, and always exercise good judgment and communication when engaging your colleagues.